Friday, November 24, 2006

Trapped In The Land of Death

I’m going to quote the AP article to describe the state of affairs in Iraq this weekend:
Shiite militiamen doused six Sunni Arabs with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and killed 19 other Sunnis in attacks on their mosques Friday, taking revenge for the slaughter of at least 215 Shiites in the Sadr City slum the day before.
The mosque attacks came after the government, in a desperate attempt to avert civil war, imposed a sweeping curfew on the capital, shut down the international airport and closed the country's main outlet to the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf

The same article contains a quote from a Shiite legislator:
Legislator Qusai Abdul-Wahab, an al-Sadr follower, blamed U.S. forces for Thursday's bombings in Sadr City because they failed to provide security.
"We say occupation forces are fully responsible for these acts, and we call for the withdrawal of occupation forces or setting a timetable for their withdrawal," Abdul-Wahab said.
Al-Sadr's followers hold six Cabinet seats and have 30 members in the 275-member parliament.

Describing what is happening there as a civil war is too simple and too nice. This is a war not just over power, but over religion, one that has gone on for hundreds of years. Our troops are in the middle of this, unwanted by most and unwelcome by nearly all. Those who claim to want victory in this disaster are fools – there will be no victory because there will be no end to the wanton killing. The only question should be when and how to leave the mess behind us.
Yet the best the Democrats seem to be offering is either the lame hope in the Baker-Hamilton Commission or a start to draw down troops in 4-6 months (the Levin proposal), with no fixed exit date. Those are not solutions, they are not exit strategies, they are merely political dances, an attempt to stake out a position which is different from Bush yet not decisive enough to be blamed for anything. They lack either philosophical or practical coherence.
To me there are only four real options. The McCain Option: send in more troops and take control of the damn place. This shows a complete lack of understanding of both the area and the state of our military. McCain believes more Americans will volunteer for duty if we call on them to do so and we can expand our Army to fill the need. To me, this lack of judgment disqualifies him from being President. Next is the Enough Already Option: get out now – or as fast as we humanly can. This has one strength: our troops stop dying for nothing. It’s a big strength, but is probably unworkable. How do we organize this withdrawal? More importantly, how do we explain this withdrawal internationally, other than as a sign of fear? The Biden Option: a political solution where we effectively divide the country into three ethnic states, in a loose federation. The problem with this is its complete unpopularity within Iraq. Then there is the Feingold Option: set a date certain, about a year from now, as the date we leave. This would focus the Iraqi Government and people on the establishment of a real national army and police force. We would ramp up our training budget, and provide them with the kind of materials and armored vehicles they need to fight the war on their own. It would be an early investment but have a finite end.
From my point of view, the last option is clearly the best. We also would need to tell the Iraqi Government that we will do what we have to in order to protect our troops, regardless of their wishes. We might withdraw from Baghdad and head for Kurdistan, where we might be more useful.
I am not naive. I do not believe that we will leave a stable Iraq with a functioning democratic government and peace and security for its people. The fact that in this morning’s massacre the Iraqi Army was there and did nothing, tells us all we need to know about the current state of their military, which is more a collection of ethnic and religious militias than a national force. I do think that in a moral sense, we need to give them a chance to get their act together, armed with the knowledge that we are leaving. I think in the geopolitical sense, we need to be seen as giving them that chance.
We do not know the answer to John Kerry’s famous quote, about another military disaster, “who will be the last man (or woman, in this war) to die for a mistake?” We must at least know the answer to when that will happen. We owe our soldiers that much.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Ultimate Sports Moments

This afternoon, for reasons which will become apparent, I was thinking of great sporting moments I would like to be at. These are moments which transcend the sport they are part of, which contain a sense of drama and excitement so special that they have to be seen in person and shared by a crowd. I have seen a horse win the Triple Crown (three, actually, but Secretariat’s stretch run was the one that mattered most) and it was an incredible experience, with 80,000+ fans screaming at the top of their lungs, knowing they had seen history. I came up with five other moments I would like to see:

5. The opening bell of a heavyweight championship fight -- unfortunately, this doesn’t really exist anymore, as there is no actual heavyweight champion of the world. I actually have seen this in a theater, for Ali-Frazier I, which is close, but not the same as actually being there.

4. The singing of My Old Kentucky Home at the Derby – not a dry eye in the house, followed by the horses coming on the track.

3. “Gentlemen, start your engines” – I’m not an auto racing fan, but being at the Indianapolis Speedway for that moment must be incredible.

2. The bringing of the Stanley Cup to the ice after the home team has won it. Note: this should not take place in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, or Anaheim – seriously.

1. Script Ohio in Ohio Stadium before the Ohio State-Michigan game – there are many great moments in college football, I’m sure Seminole fans would say the moment the spear is driven into the 50 yard line before their home games is incredible, Tennessee fans would talk about the singing of Rocky Top (and the Victors in Ann Arbor and The Notre Dame Fight Song in South Bend, and I’m sure many others),UT fans would talk about the marching band’s entrance playing The Eyes of Texas – all great drama. But nothing compares to the dotting of the I. The long slow build as Ohio is written, the wonderful theatricality of the drum major leading the tuba player to the spot, followed by the deep bow as 100,000 crazed fans release a week of pent-up anticipation. That my friends, is sports theater at its best. O-H...I-O, indeed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Random Political Thoughts

No long pieces here, just a few items that have caught my eye.

Hillary Watch: She’s running for President. Okay, not exactly the news story of the year, but removing herself as chair of the Steering Committee to focus on her “committee assignments and other activities” tells us all we need to know. If/when Obama enters the race, the Democrats will have two media stars in the battle and there’s a serious question as to whether that leaves any air for anyone else.

Feingold Passes: Unfortunately, my preferred candidate has bowed out. This means I get to settle once again in 2008. Feingold was the first Senator to publicly call for a date certain to end our Iraq misadventure (which I am convinced is the right strategy), but having vision and integrity is not enough to become President. Which explains why we get the Presidents we do.

He’s Ba-ack: Yes, Trent Lott is back in the GOP Senate leadership. Has any former leader ever come back as the Whip? It’s an odd position to be in, but I guess he’s been forgiven for his “America would have been better off if an unapologetic racist had been elected President in 1948” comment. Okay, he didn’t say it that way, just endorsed Strom Thurmond half a century after the fact, but it’s the same thing.

Fighting Among Ourselves: Speaker Pelosi (God, I love typing that), endorses Jack Murtha for Majority Leader post. There are multiple things at work here. While many feel Steny Hoyer has more appeal to the moderates in the party, Murtha is certainly a moderate himself, differing with Pelosi on a number of issues. What makes this endorsement most interesting is the public nature of it – risking a public defeat so early in her Speakership is a bold (some might say dubiously so) move. Murtha may have asked her to do it. She feels the party owes Murtha – his open opposition to the war, serving as a lightning rod of sorts, enabled the Dems to unapologetically come across as anti-war but not anti-troops and played a huge part in their victory. Hoyer has been something of an apologist for the war and with that issue being a key component of the Democrats’ agenda, he is a weaker fit as leader. Maybe more important is that when Pelosi first ran for a leadership position in the House, Murtha, a key moderate, was a supporter of hers (against Hoyer). Loyalty is a key component of leadership and that may be as important here as anything.

Is McCain in Trouble?: It’s too early to give Presidential polls too much weight, but John McCain can’t be happy with today’s Gallup and Rasmussen polls. Gallup has it Guiliani 28, McCain 26, Rice 13, Rasmussen has it Guiliani 24, Rice 18, McCain 17. McCain trailing Rudy early is a bad sign – he may have to emphasize his conservative credentials against Rudy and that destroys his moderate image. Combine that with his untenable Iraq position and McCain is not in a great early position. The next two candidates in both of these polls are Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, both under 10%. These two are not badly positioned – Romney has no Iraq position and that could be a wonderful place to be in 2008; being a Governor rather than a Senator doesn’t hurt either. Newt gets the “Back To The Future” vote – we had Newt and took power once, let’s do it again.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rummy, You Did a Heck Of a Job

The departure of the worst Secretary of Defense ever – and Robert McNamara set the bar mighty high there but Rumsfeld cleared it – means it’s time to take stock of what his replacement means. Rumsfeld’s complete misunderstanding of Iraq, of the kind of Army needed to occupy a country, of the nature of the insurgency, and of the situation on the ground, reveled a stunning incompetence. That Bush decided to delegate so much to this arrogant nitwit speaks volumes about his leadership. That Cheney allegedly fought for his retention says a great deal about his judgment. I say allegedly, because I am less certain about all the stories that have leaked out since Rumsfeld’s firing. I’m a poker player and if you play, you know that when an opponent bets, the first decision you have to make is whether he has the hand he seems to be betting, or is just creating the illusion of that hand by betting at that point. Very often that decision comes down to the history of that opponent’s bets. So we have to ask ourselves, if the White House is leaking the information that Cheney and Rumsfeld are the losers of a power struggle, that Bush and by extension, Rice, are taking control now, is this real, or the story they want us to believe? I don’t know the answer – I usually believe nothing I hear from these people, but we do know that hatred of Rumsfeld was widespread. This is also good PR, since the American people clearly wanted Runsfeld gone. Maybe the leaks are true. In any case, good riddance to bad rubbish.
As for his replacement, Robert Gates – this is a stunningly non-Bushian move. Not only did he go outside the inner circle, he found someone who disagrees with Bush on major pieces of his policy. Gates believes we should be talking to Iran and Syria and try and get their help with Iraq. That’s right, chat up the axis of evil and their running dog. Has Bush had some kind of Road to Damascus moment? Is a radical change of policy in the offing? Is Bush actually going to listen to someone with a different point of view from his own? I’ll believe it when I see it. I think Gates’ job is to get approved easily, which he will, and to buy Bush time. It will be a few months until the Baker-Hamilton Commission (which Gates was a member of) reports. This report is being treated like it’s coming to Washington etched on two stone tablets by a finger of fire. Will Bush use the report to cover his retreat? Will Bush use it as a basis for a fundamental shift in how we deal with not just Iraq but the region? Or will Bush just try and run out the clock until the 2008 campaign starts, when he’ll say major changes shouldn’t be made during a campaign? That move would allow him to pass the buck to the next President and blame him for the inevitable collapse of Iraq. I think that’s where he’s heading, because stalling means things can turn around and victory will be possible (in his mind, if not the real world), and that he doesn’t have to pull back and watch the carnage which he set in motion happen on his watch.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"It Was a Thumpin'"

Normally I don’t let Dubya write my titles, but he summed up Election Day perfectly during his press conference – it was indeed a “thumpin’”. At this point it looks like the Democrats picked up 29 seats in the House and at least 5 in the Senate, with a slim lead in the key sixth Senate seat in VA.
Looking back at my predictions from Monday, I was clearly fooled a bit by late polling numbers. The especially curious RI numbers, which seemed to be meaningless, headed the list, with MD and TN not far behind. What could have caused these anomalies? TN might be illustrative. Nearly 40% of the votes in TN were cast early. Is it possible that early voters simply refuse to answer polling questions after they have already voted? Most observers felt the early voters were going to be a positive for Ford, since his voters were worried about trouble at the polls. That would explain the discrepancy between the final result there and the late polling data. Perhaps the same thing applies to the other two – it’s very clear that the late move by Chafee which showed up in several polls simply didn’t happen. In any case, my individual state analysis proved more accurate than my random variance split, so we basically swept things. Sometimes you flip a coin four times and it comes up four heads. As for the House, the late GOP surge reflected in many polls didn’t happen either. As I said, if I was predicting last Friday, I would have been at 235 +/- 3, but late polls scared me a bit. Along with early voting, the problem there might have been figuring out who the likely voters were. The big shift in generic numbers really occurred in alleged likely voters, not registered voters.

Winners and Losers:


Nancy Pelosi – Madam Speaker. You know, for a politician to know that all history books in the future will record her as the first female Speaker of the House has to be mighty humbling – and damned exciting. She’ll do a good job, since she’s a first-rate politician and really good at getting the troops together. Interesting tidbit: she’s the first Speaker from the most populous state since before the Civil War.

Hillary Clinton – Pelosi’s ascension to Speaker will get the American people used to seeing a woman in power, this can only help her Presidential ambitions. And if the Dems have the Senate, Hillary has another option – replacing Harry Reid as Majority Leader when he steps down in two years, as is expected.

Independent Voters – Even in non-swing districts, they showed they were numerous and flexible enough to turn them over. It will be easier for Democrats to appeal to them than Republicans, who are in bed with the religious right (figuratively, of course).

Howard Dean – His 50-state strategy angered some and was mocked by many, but he was right. Dems won 3 seats in Indiana, 2 in NH, 2 in Iowa, and single seats in KY, NC, AZ, and even Kansas. Not only that, there are districts in NE, ID, and WY where nearly half the people voted for a Democrat, which lays the groundwork for the future. In the last week the Republicans were forced to send Bush and money to NE and KS, and that also didn’t hurt the cause.

Blue Dog Democrats – The conservative wing of the party is much bigger than before and both Speaker Pelosi and the GOP minority will have to deal with them.

Heath Shuler – Won the seat in NC, the poster boy for the new generation of southern Democrat, socially conservative, but choosing the Democrats because they actually believe in helping the little guy. Given his past history as Redskins QB, is likely to either be sacked on the way into the Capitol, or have his first vote picked off by Republican he didn’t notice.

Rahm Emanuel/Chuck Schumer – The architects of victory. Emanuel should end up in leadership in the House. Schumer, responsible for finding candidates like Brown, Webb, Tester, and McCaskill, may have more trouble finding an appropriate reward, as Hillary could get in his way.


Karl Rove – Rovey, you’re doing a heck of a job. The strategy of emphasizing your base at the expense of the middle failed.

Donald Rumsfeld – Rummy, you’re doing...oh hell, go away, everyone hates you, Democrats, Republicans, soldiers. More on him tomorrow.

George W. Bush – Duh.

Dennis “Fat Denny” Hastert – Double duh.

Mitch McConnell – May not even get the big office, let alone the power in the Senate.

House Republican Moderates – After yesterday, they can caucus in a phone booth (a reference which will be meaningless in a few years). This could be a long-term problem for the party, as conservatives have a big edge in most party primaries and moderates have the edge in general elections. Democratic incumbents will be tougher to beat from the right.

Gay Rights – In state after state, anti-gay marriage amendments passed easily. Look for the Republicans in Congress to raise a Marriage Amendment just so the Dems can stop it.

So will Bush govern from the middle the next two years? Will he reach out and be a uniter, not a divider? Here’s another quote from Dubya from today’s press conference, when asked how he explained the electoral disaster. “I thought when all was said and done, the American people would recognize the importance of taxes and the importance of security”. So apparently, we were just too dumb to understand the world and that’s why we voted for Democrats. Way to reach out and bring us together, Asshole-in-chief.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Whole World Is Watching

During WWI, when his Army commander said he intended to resume his bloody and disastrous assaults on the French fortress, Verdun, the German Chancellor asked the question “When does the incompetence end and the crime begin?” History will have to judge Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, et al, on when their Iraq disaster turned from incompetence to criminality. Much of the world believes the very enterprise itself qualified as the latter. To this point, they have blamed the Bush administration for the war, letting the American people have a pass. That pass ends November 7th.
Make no mistake, the world is watching this election as no midterm election in history. They see a U.S. government at odds with the world. At odds over the war, at odds over constant saber-rattling beyond Iraq, at odds over climate change, at odds over the nature of the world. While we are being fed horror stories about Iranian religious fundamentalists having nuclear weapons, to much of the world, they already fear a country led by religious fundamentalists in control of nuclear weapons – the U.S. They fear a nation run by a man who while giving lip service to the threat of global warming, is alone in a steadfast refusal to do anything about it. A nation led by a man who believes in torture as an instrument of war, in defiance of the Geneva Convention. When the most powerful nation on earth is led by such a man, truly the only reaction by other nations is fear.
Yet they have reserved their fear and hatred for Bush, not for the rest of us. They look at his election and reelection as a product of our convoluted system as much as any popularity he has here. They see the current polling data, both on the war and his performance, as the true indicator of how the American people feel. But if, on Election Day, the American people keep the President’s party in power, the rest of the world can reach only one conclusion: that we, the people, are endorsing Bush and his policies. It will not just be the administration they hate and fear, it will be all of us.
Make no mistake, a country that is feared and hated will not be trusted. They will consider us a threat to their safety. More and more countries will line up against us. Certainly our influence will diminish, as world leaders will be in a rush to demonstrate their independence from the rogue superpower. If you think Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, and, of course, France will not be there to take advantage of this situation you are greatly mistaken.
A vote for a Republican is a vote to support George W. Bush and all he stands for. Sending Republicans back to Washington will not be looked on by the world as the act of an incompetent electorate, but of a criminal one. Our future and the world’s future is at stake – the choice is yours.

Predictions - Senate

Let’s use three categories again to talk about these.

Nothing To See Here, Move Along: PA, OH, NJ

It’s amazing that two weeks ago, NJ was a toss-up, now it looks like it’s over. Average the last 5 polls and Menendez is up by 6.6. Not sure why this happened, but the GOP threw away a lot of late advertising money here.

These Are Over, Right?: TN, RI

The average of the last 5 polls has Corker up by 7.4, which would normally put him in the top group. But the last two, Gallup and Rasmussen, have it at 3 and 4, respectively, which seems to have it in play. I still don’t believe it really is, still think Ford is probably outpolling his actual vote, but let’s not call it over.
RI is a whole different kettle of fish. I refuse to move it from the top category to the toss-up category in one week. The Mason-Dixon poll which actually had Chafee ahead by one point is very disturbing, especially since Gallup has it at 3 today. What actually concerns me most is the underlying data gathered from the Mason-Dixon poll. Here are a few tidbits:

Bush Approval/Disapproval: 29/70 (58% strongly disapprove)
Congress A/D: 26/70 (49% strongly)
Most Important Issues: Iraq 32%, Health Care 16%
Right Track/Wrong Track: 31/64
A/D Bush Iraq policies: 24/74 (59% strongly)

These are obviously core Democratic voters, yet they are voting for Chafee. Is this buyer’s remorse on a Democratic Congress? Do they prefer a moderate Republican to guard against ideological Democratic control? Will this also apply to similar House races, say in CT and NY? I have no idea, which is why it scares me. If core Democratic issue voters who hate Bush can vote for a Republican, I have no idea how to figure out how the House races, so dependent on a national tide, will turn out. As much as anything this is why I have scaled back the estimates which so many experts have made of 230-240 House seats and which I would have joined as late as last Friday. The surge I referred to includes this seat and the underlying data surrounding it. I still think this is a pickup for the Dems, but we surely have to be a little nervous at this point.

I Really Wish There Was a Paper Trail For All These Votes: VA, MD, MO, MT

VA: SUSA poll today has Webb up 52-44. Before we start the victory parade, let’s look at some numbers. That same poll shows 38-35 Democratic margin for likely voters, which seems a bit favorable. Just like the 10/29 Rasmussen poll that had Webb up 5, which turned back into a tie four days later, this is probably an outlier. The big hope is that these are margin of error variations, leaving Webb still up a bit. If you track SUSA numbers and just look at Independent voters, you see an interesting progression for Webb, going from down 42-49 on 9/29, to up 52-39 on 10/21, to today’s 59-33 lead. The latest Mason-Dixon poll had Allen up 4, but had Webb getting just 80% of the Democratic vote, with 12% undecided. He averages 88% in SUSA, so I think M-D is off there. They also have him up among independents, 46-39. After a bit of number crunching, I would say Webb has a about a 2 point lead here – not exactly solid, but he’s the only one who can say that in this race.

MD: Last week former Prince George’s county executive Wayne Curry and five fellow Democrats from the County Council endorsed Michael Steele. Prince George’s County is an affluent black suburb of Washington, D.C. and obviously a Democratic stronghold. Will this endorsement also include a GOTV effort on Steele’s behalf by these Dems? SUSA has had this race tight all along, currently tied. Mason-Dixon now has Cardin up by just 3. Cardin’s problem is that many black voters are upset at his beating Kwesi Mfume in a tough primary. The question is how many are willing to back up their poll answers with actually going out to vote for Steele, and how many will just sit home. On the other hand, how many of the black Democrats who say they’re voting for Cardin are going to bother showing up to actually do so? My assumption is that Cardin is ahead, but I have no idea who will be turning out tomorrow, so I think this is too hard to call.

MT: The Gallup Poll has Tester up by 9 – I don’t believe it, but he still seems to be ahead. There has still not been a poll with Burns ahead and the last two polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, show Tester at 50%, which is the magic number. In fact, the last three Rasmussen polls have Tester at 50% or above. The GOP has thrown lots of money and W at this race and it’s still mighty close and apparently (except for Gallup) getting closer.

MO: National trends matter little here. There are real issues driving this race, the war and stem cell research, and that makes it big. With a stem cell research initiative on the ballot, GOTV efforts won’t mean as much, as people are passionate about that and will show up without any prodding. How tight are the polls here? Rasmussen has polled this race six times in the last five weeks – the biggest margin in any poll was 2 points. Since 10/12 there have been 18 polls conducted, the biggest margin in any was 4 points (that’s yesterday’s Gallup, with McCaskill up). It’s going to be a long time before this is settled.

Assuming I’m right about the previous categories, the Democrats need to sweep these four to get control. The statistical analyst in me tells me that’s silly – four toss-up races are probably splitting 2-2, maybe 3-1. But if I look at each of these individually...

MD- Cardin is still ahead in polls, it’s still a Democratic state in federal elections.
VA- Allen is still under 50%, which is bad news for an incumbent and Webb seems to be winning more polls than he’s losing.
MT- I repeat, Burns has yet to lead in any poll.
MO: Talent barely won this seat last time, the last two sitting Senators to run in this seat lost, and McCaskill barely lost her Governor’s race two years ago – does this sound like a likely re-election to you?

In the end, I’ll go with random variance and say they split – leaving the Senate at 51-49, GOP. And the Chafee seat is no sure pickup either, so even if we get four, we could still fall short of a majority. I’m rooting for McCaskill and Cardin – McCaskill because it’s a stark ideological difference, with the issues well drawn and Cardin because Steele could be a major problem for the Democratic Party for a long time to come.

Predictions - House

We here at The Nattering Nabob have run the data through our super-duper Predictatron 3000 and can absolutely declare the winners of tomorrow’s elections. Well, we could if we had a Predictatron 3000, or if the data had the kind of consistency that wouldn’t cause the Predictatron, a nooriously fussy piece of software, to give us “insufficient data”, “user error” and the dreaded and bewildering “page fault” messages.
So I’m left with my own feeble brain, a pen, and the electronic wizardry of MS Calculator to come up with my predictions. Here goes nothing:

House of Representatives

This has been made more confusing by a string of generic polls which either have the Democrats 13 ahead (Fox), 15 ahead (Time), 16 ahead (Newsweek), 20(!) ahead (CNN) or 7 ahead (Gallup), 6 ahead (Washington Post), or 4 ahead (Pew) Good luck interpreting those babies. Some of the problems may be in the likely voter models. If you just look at registered voters in the Pew/WP polls, the shift is not so great, maybe 3 points. I am perceiving a late surge to the GOP in both the House and Senate races of about two or three points. How many seats this might change is hard to estimate. On the plus side, Bush is still campaigning in Nebraska and Kansas, hardly the kind of marginal places you would expect if things were still in doubt. Of course, those events were planned a week ago, when the landscape may have looked very different. The individual House polls I’ve seen have, for the most part, looked good for the GOP. Still there are oddities out there which are scary for the GOP. Examples: Clay Shaw in Florida is down 9 in the latest Zogby poll, which backs up the two previous polls showing Klein ahead by smaller margins. In NY-20, John Sweeney, who won with 66% of the vote in 2004, is trailing Kirsten Gillibrand. Sweeney has been denying newspaper accounts of police reports of domestic abuse last December. “The reports say Gayle Sweeney told a trooper that her husband grabbed her by the neck and pushed her around. It goes on to say the Congressman had visible scratches on his face. No criminal charges were filed.” Not how you want to spend the last week of a campaign. In a juicy bit of electoral irony, Gillibrand is a lawyer specializing in...domestic abuse cases.
All in all, I’m going to stick with my estimate of 225, +/- 3 for the new Democratic House. I don’t think the GOP can win this and if the surge is not enough, this could still end up well into the 230’s. I’ll be conservative here and be thrilled if I’m low.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New Republican Talking Points

With the imminent loss of the House (and maybe the Senate), it’s clear the GOP is going to need to spin even faster to make the misguided American voters understand the “truth”. Here at The Nattering Nabob, we have gotten our hands on an early draft of post-election talking points to convince the American people that all is well.

1. Since the terrorists wanted the Democrats to win, the new Congress is a victory for the terrorists. In order for the Terrorist Congress to not cause damage, more power must be vested in the executive branch, as it’s clear the Commander-In-Chief is all we have left.

2. Since only desperate people kill, it’s obvious the increased death in Iraq is a sign of the desperation of the insurgency. Therefore, the more people killed in Iraq, the closer we are to victory.

3. Setting a date for us to leave Iraq would mean the insurgents would have increased confidence in their inevitable victory. Confident in victory they might stop killing our troops, and as we know from talking point #2, fewer deaths mean defeat.

4. More and more people are losing their health care coverage. This is a good thing, since if only the wealthiest and healthiest Americans can afford health insurance, health insurers profits will increase, their stock will go up, and a rising stock market makes all Americans wealthier. So fewer insured people is good for the economy and will make us all rich.

5. Increasing stem cell research might be giving people false hope of cures. It’s better to not increase it and give them no hope, which gives them more time to pray. (This is actually a current talking point, but the issue isn’t going away.)

6. George W. Bush isn’t the worst President ever, he’s the 43rd best President ever.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Is That a Landslide I Hear Or Just My Stomach?

With each passing day a new set of polls shows up which show the Dems leading in more House seats. The latest sets from RT Strategies, Zogby/Reuters, and Survey USA are indicating a huge surge toward the Dems. These are heady days for the Democrats, with a 35-seat pickup well in range. In fact, a superficial count of the seats with Dems leading in the most recent polls actually exceeds 35.
The fly in the ointment here is that House polls are spectacularly unreliable. They have smaller samples, are more difficult to target properly (area codes don’t necessarily match with congressional districts and respondents don’t always know which district they’re in), and bounce around wildly. As an example, I give you the Ohio 2nd district, home of the vile Jean Schmidt, famous for accusing John Murtha, decorated war hero, of being a coward. Here are the results from two polling organizations:

Survey USA

9/19 497 LV Schmidt 45 Wulsin 42 Schmidt +3
10/16 555 LV Schmidt 48 Wulsin 40 Schmidt +8
10/31 618 LV Schmidt 45 Wulsin 48 Wulsin +3

RT Strategies

10/10 1003 LV Schmidt 45 Wulsin 48 Wulsin +3
10/26 972 LV Schmidt 51 Wulsin 46 Schmidt +5

Here we have two reliable pollsters with large samples which, between the second week of October and the end of October showed either an 11 point swing to Wulsin, or an 8 point swing to Schmidt.
Now we could say that with a 4 point margin of error, the 10/16 poll is just a statistical accident (1 of 20 polls are outside the MoE) and the others all reflect a race where Schmidt is up by 1 point, with the results all falling within (barely) the margin of error. And we might be right about that – the danger is in looking for momentum or shifting tides from any series of polls.
Still and all, the Republicans can take little solace from the data that has been released this week. The only thing they may take away from it is the ability to spin a 20-seat loss by talking about how “everyone was saying we were going to lose 35, 40, even 50 seats.” I can live with that.

How Is Montana Like New Jersey?

How is Montana like New Jersey? Well, Montana ends in a vowel and New Jersey has many “notable” citizens whose names end in a vowel. In fact, both things are linked together by legendary fictional mob boss Tony Montana (AKA Scarface).
They also both have close Senate races which seem to have a similar late thrust, with voters “coming home.” In NJ, with momentum switching back and forth, the late surge seems to be going Menendez way, as Democrats and those Independents who lean Dem, returning to the fold. In Montana, Burns seems to be closing ground as Republicans come home. The GOP is pouring money into Montana and Bush is taking a trip there today – although there is little evidence that W showing up anywhere has helped a candidate. Still, Montana is far enough away from the D.C. Republican stench that seeing the President in the flesh might excite them. One interesting thing about Montana: we have yet to see one Republican internal poll from there. There are various internal polling organizations associated with the parties; Strategic Visions is a Republican one, Global Strategies and Lake Associates are Democrat oriented ones. These tend to be a bit slanted toward the party who paid for them, and usually some positive ones are released to fire up the troops or get a bandwagon effect rolling. In general there have been far more Democratic polls released this cycle than Republican ones, which is not surprising, considering the general trend. You would think that with a race as close as the Montana one is that there would be one or two of these showing Mr. Burns ahead. Surely if there was one, the GOP would have gotten it out there. We can only assume from the lack of this that there hasn’t been one and that could well be a positive sign for Tester.